Israel’s Arrow intercepts Houthi ballistic missile headed for Eilat

Ballistic missile intercepted over Red Sea; US military destroys seven Houthi anti-ship missiles, one missile launcher and a drone that posed an ‘imminent threat’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Footage from EIlat shows an interception of a missile over the Red Sea, February 22, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Footage from EIlat shows an interception of a missile over the Red Sea, February 22, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel’s long-range Arrow air defense system shot down a ballistic missile over the Red Sea early Thursday morning, fired by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, the military said.

Footage from Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat showed smoke trails in the sky from the aftermath of the interception.

The Israel Defense Forces said the ballistic missile fired from Yemen was headed toward Israel, likely aimed for Eilat, when it was shot down over the Red Sea using the advanced Arrow system.

The IDF added that the missile did not enter Israeli airspace when it was shot down, and sirens had sounded in the southern city according to protocol, due to fears of falling shrapnel.

The Houthis later took responsibility for the attack, claiming it launched several ballistic missiles and drones at Eilat.

The Iran-backed group has fired several ballistic missiles and drones at Eilat, in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, where Israel is battling Hamas terrorists. All of the projectiles have been intercepted or missed their target. An Iran-backed group in Syria also launched drones at Eilat, hitting a school in November.

Thursday’s Arrow interception was its sixth interception of a ballistic missile, all of which occurred amid the war in Gaza. Cruise missiles and drones launched by the Houthis in recent months have been taken out by Israeli fighter jets.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014 and control large swaths of the country, are “part of the axis of resistance” against Israel along with Hamas — which is also sponsored by Tehran.

Houthi rebels have expressed support for the Palestinians and threatened Israel amid the Israel-Hamas war. The Iranian-backed group’s slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

In the Red Sea, the Houthis have fired on commercial and military ships dozens of times since November.

The Houthis say they are targeting ships over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

File – Houthi fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the US strikes on Yemen outside Sanaa on January 22, 2024. (AP Photo)

Shortly before the launch at Eilat, the US military said it destroyed seven anti-ship missiles, one missile launcher and a drone originating from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The US military’s Central Command said the missiles, the launcher and the drone “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region.”

The war began on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages of all ages. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities amid acts of brutality were civilians.

The Houthis say the strikes are in solidarity with the people of Gaza, where the Hamas-run health ministry says more than 29,000 people have been killed in the conflict, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 12,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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